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'Maurits Cornelius Escher' printed from http://nrich.maths.org/

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Have you ever noticed how mathematical ideas are often used in patterns that we see all around us? Sometimes it is hard to decide when maths becomes art, or vice-versa.

One artist who may have agreed with this is Maurits Cornelius Escher . He was born in 1898, in the Netherlands, and showed gr

 

eat artistic talent from an early age. At first Escher concentrated on sketching scenery and things around him. However, on a visit to Alhambra in Spain, he became fascinated by the Arabic tessellating patterns contained in the tiles, and started to experiment more with shapes and mirror images. In the late 1920s people began to recognise his style.
 

 

This is called "Castrovalva", a mountainside village, and was finished in 1930

 

All M.C. Escher works (c) 2001

Cordon Art - Baarn - Holland.

All rights reserved. Used by permission .


 

Gradually, Escher's work began to change. Rather than drawing what he saw, Escher started to express ideas he had in his mind. He was able to create spatial illusions and detailed repeating patterns.


 

 

All M.C. Escher works (c) 2001 Cordon Art - Baarn - Holland. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

This picture was completed in 1930 and is called "Day and Night". Can you see how Escher has used black and white bird silhouettes to show the change from day to night?

 


 

In 1936, Escher made a second trip to Alhambra. After this, his pictures c

 

ontained more shapes, which were often transformed by reflections, rotations and translations. This produced amazing tessellations.
 

 

Can you see the butterfly motifs here?

This picture is made up of identical parallelograms which have been shifted diagonally.

 

 

                                                                                           All M.C. Escher works (c) 2001 Cordon Art -                                                                            Baarn - Holland. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


 


Look at these parrots.

Can you work out how they have been moved to make this pattern?









 

All M.C. Escher works (c) 2001 Cordon Art - Baarn - Holland.
All rights reserved. Used by permission .
 
 
 
You can try your own tessellating patterns with any shape.


Escher's popularity in America was increasing and he was now in demand as a lecturer in art, maths and sciences. Mathematicians had been admiring his work since the early 40s and their numbers were growing.

Escher's drawings began to show a new theme towards the late 1950s. He perfected a technique known as "showing infinity" which gave the impression that his sketches were endless. He did this by making the objects gradually smaller towards the edge of the paper. Have a look!
 


All M.C. Escher works (c) 2001 Cordon Art - Baarn - Holland. All rights reserved. Used by permission .

This is called "Circle Limit IV" and was finished in 1960.

Unfortunately, Escher became quite ill, although he did see his first book of prints published which gained him even greater recognition. He died in March 1972.

So, what do you think?
Was Escher an artist or a mathematician?

Discuss it with your friends!

You can find out more about this fascinating man from these websites:
 

All M.C. Escher works (c) 2001 Cordon Art - Baarn - Holland. All rights reserved. Used by permission .